DECT vs. Bluetooth: Which Is Best for Professional Use?

DECT and Bluetooth are the two main wireless protocols used to connect headsets to other communications devices. While they are often used for similar purposes, Bluetooth and DECT do differ across a number of parameters. Because of that, each standard is more suitable for certain professional situations.

What is DECT?

DECT (or “Digital European Cordless Telecommunications”) is a wireless standard used to connect wireless audio accessories with a desk phone or softphone via a base station.

Its North American counterpart---DECT 6.0---is functionally similar but operates in a different frequency band, making the two standards incompatible with each other.

What is Bluetooth?

Bluetooth is a wireless communication protocol that has a broader range of applications. In addition to enabling telecommunications, it allows for most types of data transfer between connected devices. Additionally, Bluetooth doesn’t rely on a base station---any Bluetooth-enabled device can connect to another one directly.

So how exactly do these two technologies compare to each other?

DECT vs. Bluetooth: Comparison

Despite both Bluetooth and DECT fulfilling largely the same function when it comes to communications, there are a few notable differences.

Connectivity

Connectivity
BluetoothDECT
Max. connected devices81
PrerequisitesBluetooth enabled on each deviceDedicated base station

Any Bluetooth device can pair with up to 8 other devices. The only requirement is that each is Bluetooth-enabled. This makes Bluetooth headsets more versatile for everyday use.

DECT headsets are intended to be exclusively paired with a single dedicated base station, which in turn connects to a desk phone or softphone. Therefore, DECT is primarily used in traditional office and contact center settings.

Range

Range
BluetoothDECT
Wireless range (indoors)10 meters (33 feet) for Class 2 devices55 meters (180 feet)
NotesVaries greatly by device and situationChance of channel conflict

Standard DECT headsets have an indoor operating range of around 55 meters (80 feet) but can reach up to 180 meters (590 feet) with direct line of sight. This range can be extended further (theoretically without limitations) by using wireless routers spaced around the office.

The operating range of Bluetooth varies by device class and usage. Generally speaking, Bluetooth devices fall into the following three classes:

  • Class 1: Has a typical audio range of up to 25 meters
  • Class 2: These have a range of about 10 meters (33 feet)
  • Class 3: Range of 1 meter (3 feet). Not used in headsets.

Class 2 devices are by far the most widespread. Most smartphones and Bluetooth headsets fall into this category.

The new Bluetooth 5.3 standard, while not increasing the typical range, will help to improve the audio quality over the same distance. This can theoretically bring the quality on par with DECT headsets. In practice, this gain in audio quality hinges upon both connected devices being capable of delivering it.

For use in a professional setting, manufacturers like EPOS offer dongle-equipped devices that already now deliver high-quality audio over the entire operating range.

The true operating range of both Bluetooth and DECT is also affected by whether they’re used outdoors or indoors and the nature of obstacles between the devices in question. To mitigate this, DECT uses two so-called “diversity antennas,” always selecting the antenna with the best signal at any given time.

DECT has its own hypothetical limitation: DECT 6.0 in the US supports at most 60 channels per base station (120 channels in Europe). In theory, this means a busy office with numerous DECT connections within the 100-meter range may lead to a company running out of available channels. In practice, this is rarely an issue, as the range of a DECT device can be adjusted downwards to account for this.

Security

Security
BluetoothDECT
Encryption level128-bit64-bit
Safety measuresShifting operating frequency3-level security chain

Security is a natural concern when it comes to potentially sensitive communications between parties. Fortunately, both DECT and Bluetooth standards are highly secure.

DECT has a 3-level security chain. First, the headset is paired with a base station via a DECT Standard Authentication Algorithm (DSAA) that validates the initial connection. Second, when a new call is initiated, the security bindings between the headset and the station are verified to ensure the call takes place between two authorized devices. Finally, the voice data itself is encrypted using 64-bit encryption, making it unusable to any intercepting party.

Bluetooth uses a similar validation process for the initial pairing. While pairing is done over the air, the pairing range is usually greatly reduced to eliminate the chance of outside interception. Bluetooth devices use 128-bit data encryption. Paired Bluetooth devices also constantly shift their operating frequency to further improve security.

By all accounts, both DECT and Bluetooth provide a high level of security, making sensitive calls virtually impossible to intercept.

Other Considerations

Other Considerations
BluetoothDECT
Call qualityProne to interferenceHigh and stable
CompatibilityAny Bluetooth-enabled deviceOnly deskphone or softphone

The dedicated telecommunications nature of DECT devices guarantees a more stable, clear call quality. Bluetooth devices are more prone to external interference, which generally results in poorer call quality.

At the same time, Bluetooth is far more versatile when it comes to usage scenarios. Most Bluetooth devices can easily pair with each other. DECT relies on its base station and is limited to a single deskphone or softphone with which it is paired.

DECT or Bluetooth: Which One Is Right for You?

There is no clear-cut winner in this race. Both wireless standards offer a secure, reliable way to connect telecommunications devices with each other. What you choose depends largely on your professional situation.

Office or Contact Center worker: DECT

For people working from a fixed location and relying on a single desk phone or softphone, DECT headsets are the obvious choice. DECT is highly secure, its long range allows for trips around the office while maintaining connection, and the call quality is generally higher and more stable.

Hybrid or On-the-go Worker: Bluetooth

For hybrid workers or those who’re often on the road, Bluetooth headsets and speakerphones are the better option. They can maintain simultaneous pairings to multiple devices, allowing users to seamlessly switch between their computer, tablet, or smartphone. Bluetooth headsets are typically more portable and do not require a dedicated base station to operate. Their limited range is rarely an issue in practice, since the devices they’re used with tend to remain close to the owner during calls.

DECT and Bluetooth Headsets by EPOS

EPOS delivers high-end audio solutions for enterprises, including a range of headsets for both DECT and Bluetooth users. The IMPACT 5000 even combines the best of both worlds: It’s based on DECT technology but can also connect via Bluetooth through a dongle.

To explore the entire EPOS DECT and Bluetooth headset product range, please visit the EPOS website.